Today’s review is on The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.
I had heard that The Complete Persepolis was a good graphic novel for those who are interested in finding out more about life in the Middle East during the Islamic Revolution. It has also been a frequently challenged book for supposedly being politically, socially and racially offensive. This intrigued me even more because it is an own voices graphic novels that is depicting recounting real experiences that the other went through.
The Complete Persepolis is an autobiographical graphic novel that depicts author Marjane Satrapi’s life from adolescence to early twenties. It is a collection of comic strips that tell the story of her life in Iran at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in the early 1980s and the affect it had on her and her family, especially as it started to get more oppressive and other Middle Eastern took advantage of this unrest by declaring war on Iran. It also shows her parents struggling with the decision to send her away to Europe to get an education that is better than what she would get in her home country. The second part of this graphic novel depicts Marjane’s life in France as a teenager and how she had to fight against prejudice, discover love, as well as the drug culture that was readily available to her. It also shows her eventual return to Iran and how different it is, and even how it is more oppressive than what she is used to, especially towards women.
Persepolis was an interesting read. The art style is beautiful, as well as most of the story, however there are few things that I personally, and others, might find a bit of put off, for instance when Marjane talks to God and he talks back to her, some might find this blasphemous, however this was probably used to show her innocent faith before she becomes jaded due to the events that are happening around her. Another concern that some readers will have is the depiction of drug use during the latter part of the graphic novel, again it might be uncomfortable, but it is used to show how the author tried to occupy her time with various things, especially when she was away from her family during her time in Europe.
However, despite those two concerns, it is a beautiful graphic novel that is heartbreaking to read from beginning to end, especially when readers are introduced to various friends an family members that ended up killed either in war or for the ideologies that went against the Islamic Revolution regime. It will also make readers thankful for the freedoms that we have in the Western world, compared those who do live in countries where it is very limited what women can do. One part that was very interesting was the section where the author is in an art class at university and they have to draw models, but yet the model is covered from head to toe so that they cannot make out the shape of her body. It was also interesting to see how various relationships between men and women were (are) frowned upon and that how the fundamentalist Muslims harshly treat those who are “in sin.”
One major theme that many readers will appreciate is the author’s depiction of the discrepicies between men and women, and how men tended to have more freedom, but women were constantly seen as temptresses, even for small things such as having their hair exposed or even wearing pants with wide legs! It’s mind-boggling and I can’t imagine even begin to imagine the difficulties of living in such a society.
Another major theme is woven throughout Persepolis is the importance of family and how much her parents love Marjane, even when she disappoints them or makes decisions that puts her life in danger. The also try to encourage freedom within their own home, but yet they also stress the importance of following the rules of society when outside the home. It was also interesting to see them make the hard decision to send her away to school in Europe so that she could receive a better, and more freeing, education than she would in Tehran.
The Complete Persepolis should be definite read for those who are interested in finding out more about the Islamic Revolution. I also recommend it for fans of Khaleed Hoseini (author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns) who has also written several books set during the Islamic Revolution of the 1980s and 1990s. 4/5 Stars.
Janelle L. C.